Herewith are the prepared remarks of former Gov. Mark R. Warner of Old Town at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Richmond on Feb. 9, 2008.
Thank you, Lisa. Thank you for the strength and support you give me.
And thank you, Virginia Democrats!
I look around this room, and all I can say is, we have come a l-o-n-g way.
I remember our Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in 2001. That was only seven years ago. We had no Democrats in statewide office in Virginia. The legislature was two-to-one against us. And the press said the best days for Virginia Democrats were behind us.
But, in 2001, working together, we defied the cynics and the skeptics, and we took back the Governor’s Mansion!
In 2005, we built on that success by electing our great Governor, Tim Kaine!
In 2006, we sent Jim Webb to Washington, and turned the U.S. Senate blue!
And in the last three state elections, we’ve steadily added to our numbers in the House of Delegates!
And just this past year, in 2007, Democrats took back control of the State Senate to give Governor Kaine the partners he needs!
A lot of people have worked to make that happen. But I want to add a special thanks to Amy Reeger, who’s been our Party’s executive director.
From the statehouse to the courthouse, Virginia Democrats have proven we know how to win.
We know how to lead.
And we know how to govern!
Yes, we have come a long way, but we have further to go to lift up our Commonwealth and to change this country.
And that’s why I’m asking for your help to become the next United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia!
While we celebrate our Party’s successes tonight, allow me to take a moment to pay tribute to someone who is not of our Party – but who always puts Virginia and our country first – Senator John Warner.
I am proud to call him my friend. He has served our Commonwealth and our country with distinction. Senator Warner deserves our appreciation for his service.
Now, I know that “Senator” is not the only job in Washington that I’ve considered applying for.
As I look around the room, I see friends who encouraged me to “kick the tires” on a potential run for national office.
And let me say this: Boy, do I respect the incredible effort made both by Senator Obama and Senator Clinton.
Both of them have energized our Party , and brought-in a host of new folks.
But you know, the night before the New Hampshire primary, when I might have been trudging through the snow in Manchester or Nashua, I was instead taking my youngest daughter and two of her best friends , to a Hannah Montana concert.
If that didn’t earn a spot in fatherhood heaven, I’m not sure what will!
Friends, even as we celebrate the resurgence of Virginia Democrats tonight, we recognize there is more work to be done.
And we know what’s really important to Virginians and to Americans is not the three-word-slogans and soundbites said during a campaign. It’s what you deliver once you’ve been hired.
I am running for the United States Senate to take to Washington the same kind of practical, results-oriented leadership we have demonstrated here in Virginia.
Elections are about choices. And those choices have real consequences in people’s lives.
While George Bush has taken our country in the wrong direction, we in Virginia have been moving in the right direction.
Let’s compare George Bush’s Washington with our record here in Virginia.
At a time when Washington was running-up record deficits, Virginia was named the country’s “best managed state.”
When millions of American jobs went overseas – and Washington really wasn’t working for the American people – Virginia was named “the best state for business” by Forbes magazine.
While President Bush was fighting efforts to expand children’s health insurance, and my predecessor (and probable opponent) was calling SCHIP “an affront” to his political philosophy we chose instead to make dramatic improvements to Virginia’s child health insurance program.
To me, it’s a no-brainer: a child who goes to school healthy is better prepared to learn.
So while my predecessor as governor enrolled only seven-percent of eligible children – and Virginia returned millions of unspent federal dollars to Washington – we signed-up nearly 98-percent of eligible kids. We extended health care coverage to an additional 138,000 children!
In Washington, while the Bush Administration allowed “No Child Left Behind” to become the poster child for bureaucracy run amok, here in Virginia we recognized that a quality education is the key to a quality job in a competitive economy.
Let’s look at the results:
In 2005, our students posted the largest increase in math SAT scores in the country,
We dramatically increased the number of students – especially African-American and Hispanic students – taking Advanced Placement courses.
And we put a new emphasis on career and technical education. We said – “Here in Virginia, we will place as much value on those of you who choose to be plumbers or electricians as those who choose to be doctors or lawyers.”
And the results? We had a statewide high school graduation rate above 94-percent.
In 2007, Education Week said Virginia was the best state in the nation for the “future life success of a child” because of our very strong focus on education.
As Washington watched while small towns across America saw factories close and young people leave, here in Virginia we said we could do better.
You see, I have always believed that a young person from Martinsville , or Culpeper , or Grundy , should not have to leave their hometown and move to Fairfax , or Richmond , or Norfolk , to find a good job.
So we added 700 miles of high-speed Internet capacity the largest rural broadband deployment in the nation. And nothing reflects the new hope in Southwest and Southside Virginia than the hundreds of new I-T jobs we recently celebrated in Russell County.
At a time when Washington is running-up record debt to be paid by our children and grandchildren, we took a different approach here in Virginia.
We insisted on common-sense, business-like reforms in how government operates.
And when Virginia’s best-in-the-nation, Triple-A bond rating was at risk, we had an honest discussion with the people of Virginia about our financial situation.
We reached out – and we worked with people across the state and across the aisle to fix our state’s finances.
You see, I believe a true fiscal conservative is someone who pays his bills and does not pass-on his debts to the next guy.
My friends, in Virginia we’ve built a solid record of leadership – and that’s the kind of leadership we need in Washington!
So tonight, I stand before you once again as a job applicant.
Why? Because, like you, I know our country is at a critical crossroads. This is a defining moment in our history.
We face enormous challenges. From the war, to our economy, to our ability to compete to the very nature of America’s role in the world.
The next President of the United States is here with us tonight. And he , or she , will give us an opportunity for a fresh start.
Come January 2009, we once again have a chance to get it right!
Come January 2009, I want us not only to be proud to be Americans – but proud once again of where our country is headed.
Let me tell you what I hope we can accomplish , if we work together to get it right.
In January of 2009, we have to change our energy policy.
Our energy policy right now consists of borrowing money from China – to buy oil from countries around the world – that don’t like us.
And with some of the dollars we send to the Middle East, it’s fair to say we may be the first country in history that’s funding both sides of a war.
We must invest in renewable energy, and we must eliminate our dependence on foreign o
By making these investments, we can create millions of new jobs here in America. We can make our nation more secure.
And if we take-on the threat of climate change, we can reassert America’s moral standing in the world. If we do it right, we might even save the planet along the way.
We can get it right.
Beginning in January of 2009, we can finally fix health care. Not only is it wrong that there are nearly 50 million Americans without health care coverage, it is wrong that we pay twice as much per person as our competitors around the world – and we certainly don’t get twice as good a value.
With new leadership, we can fix health care.
It’s crazy to me that, in 2008, we have not brought the power of information technology and real transparency to our health care system to both lower costs and improve quality.
We need to bring down the price of prescription drugs. Americans should no longer pay the research and development cost for drugs for the rest of the world.
We must make sure every American has access to affordable, universal health care – and 21st century health care must also emphasize prevention.
We can get it right.
And, come January 2009, we need to start to bring our brave troops home from Iraq , because that’s the only way to put real pressure on the Iraqis to step-up and take more responsibility for their country.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of politicians who always salute the troops and then refuse to provide the money and resources to care for our wounded veterans when they come home!
We also need to recognize the struggle against those who want to attack us and our way of life requires not just military power. We must also
re-establish America’s moral leadership in the world.
We can get it right.
Come January 2009, America needs to be back on the economic offense – because I can assure you that India and China are not competing for second place.
We need more than just an economic stimulus plan. We need a long-term competitiveness plan.
We must have the best educated, most innovative and most entrepreneurial work force in the world. “Leave No Child Behind” needs to become a reality, and not just empty political rhetoric.
We need to be the world capital of innovation and new ideas – so we can keep the jobs it creates right here at home.
We can’t be on the economic offense when we’re 15th in the world in broadband deployment – when we’re relying on a second-rate rail system – or when we’re sitting in traffic. And while it’s not very “sexy,” we need a fresh approach to investing in America’s infrastructure.
Come January 2009, we have a chance to get it right.
Americans are ready to do their part. And come January 2009, we will have leaders in Washington who will trust in the character of the American people enough to ask us to step-up and do our part.
As you have heard me say again and again, it’s not about “left versus right”- or “red versus blue.” It’s not even about “Democrat versus Republican.”
It’s really about “the future versus the past.”
This is our time.
Our time to move forward – together.
That’s what we’ve done in Virginia.
And that’s the kind of U.S. Senator I intend to be in Washington!
I thank you for what you’ve done but more importantly, I thank you for what you will do to help us get it right.
May God continue to bless our Commonwealth and our nation.